Shabbat’s Torah portion begins with Moshe begging God to let him enter the Land of Israel. “Please let me pass over there and see the good Land on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon” (Devarim, 3:23).
As a rule, the Torah is very precise and sparse with its wording. Why then does the word “good” appear twice in this verse? Rabbi Shalom Gold, who left his pulpit in Long Island to lead a congregation in Jerusalem, explains that Moshe was asking Hashem two things in his fervent petition. The first was permission to enter the good Land with the rest of the Jews. The second request was, “Please, Hashem, after I am in the Land, please grant me the blessing to continue to see the Land in a good light.”
This is a wonderful insight. What splendid advice for us today in a media age which tends to highlight the bad. We are always to see the Land of Israel in a positive light. Even though there are problems in the Land of Israel (like anywhere else), we are always to look on the positive side, with a good eye, and not with a negative orientation. In doing so, we rectify the sin of the Spies and their “evil generation” who chose to emphasize the difficulties and dangers they saw in Israel over everything else. In doing so they undermined the spirit and resolve of the Nation, leading to the destruction of that generation in the wilderness. In addition, their ambivalence toward, and rejection of living in Eretz Yisrael, planted of the seeds of national weakness that still haunts us today, prolonging the exile and strengthening our enemies who seek to uproot the Land from our grasp. Seeing Israel in a positive light is a great Tikun for the sin of the Spies, a sin that that tragically continues until today. Our Sages teach that a Jew is to have the positive, emunah-filled orientation of Avraham, who gladly obeyed God’s command to dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even though there were idol worshippers and giants in the Land, and not have an evil eye like Bilaam – may we be protected from this all-too widespread fault.
When the Spies saw the mighty, fortified cities of the heathens in Israel, instead of being thankful that they would soon inherit these already built cities, they saw an insurmountable obstacle. When they saw funerals wherever they traveled, instead of thanking Hashem for keeping the local inhabitants distracted while they spied out the Land, they came back with the demoralizing report that the Land eats up its inhabitants at a ravenous pace. When they saw giants, instead of seeing that the Land contains the power for tremendous growth, they merely saw an invincible enemy.
We all have to keep guard and be careful that we don’t fall prey to this terrible yetzer (evil inclination), and to keep away from all of the complainers and whiners who are always finding fault with life in the Land of Israel, criticizing the way Hashem has decided to bring about the Redemption of the Jewish People in our time.
For instance, while it is true that we have a democratic government in Israel today, and not our ultimate Torah monarchy, thank God that we have a Jewish government after suffering under gentile rule for nearly two-thousand years and being despised minorities in other people’s lands.
And while our army has been misused as tool of dim-witted politicians to foster their leftist ideology of making concessions out of fear of the nations, nonetheless, thank God that we have a powerful Jewish army with Jewish soldiers who can strike back at the enemies who rise up against us.
And while our media is filled with journalists who have the same negative mentality of the Spies, thank God that we have the communication satellites and TV equipment in place for the day when a religious majority will take over the reins and begin broadcasting true Jewish news and Torah to all of the world.
And while our holy Jewish daughters don’t always dress as modestly as they should, thank God that 95% are marrying Jewish men and are not marrying outside of our faith like in every other country in the world.
And while taxes in Israel are high, thank God the tax money goes to Jewish schools and hospitals and yeshivot, and mikvaot, and synagogues, and Tzahal, and Jewish children support, and to build highways all over the Holy Land to get ready for the Mashiach rush.
And while you often have to wait on long lines in all sorts of government agencies and offices, thank God that the elbow in your rib is a Jewish elbow, and the impatient guy behind you is yelling at you in Hebrew and not some foreign tongue.
And while the traffic jams in Israel are getting worse all the time, because of round-the-clock highway construction, thank God you are delayed on your way to Jerusalem and not on your way to Manhattan. It seems to me that Moshe Rabainu would have been more than happy to wait the extra twenty minutes it takes in the morning to travel from the surrounding suburbs to downtown Jerusalem, now that almost everyone has his own car.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before making Aliyah in 1984, Tzvi Fishman taught Creative Writing at the NYU School of the Arts. In Israel, he studied Torah at Yeshivas Machon Meir, Beit-El, Ateret Cohanim, amd Mercaz HaRav. He has published nearly twenty novels and books on a wide range of Jewish themes, available at Amazon Books and the tzvifishmanbooks.com website, including Free Downloads. He is the recipient of the Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture. Recently, he produced and directed the feature film, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman” starring Israel’s popular actor, Yehuda Barkan. Presently, he is working on Volume Four of the “Tevye in the Promised Land” Series.
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